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Do you know the five archipielagos of French Polynesia?

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French Polynesia is located in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean and is composed of a total of 118 islands. They are all (not to mention “tiny paradises on Earth”) organized into five archipelagos located in the southern hemisphere. We will describe each archipelago from north to south by mentioning some curious facts that you can use to amuse friends at the bar or to win at Trivial Pursuits.

mapa islas Polinesia Francesa

The Marquesas:

  • The Marquesas Islands are called Te Henua’enana in their northern dialect and Te Fenua’enata in the dialect of their southern region. This is commonly translated as “the land of men”, but a more accurate interpretation would be “Marquesan country”.
  • They make up the largest archipelago in French Polynesia.
  • The most emblematic feature of the Marquesas are the tiki sculptures: ancient anthropomorphic stone sculptures representing entities half-man half-god.
  • The archipelago owes much of its fame to Paul Gauguin, the painter, and the artist Jacques Brel.
  • It is composed of 15 islands, only 6 of which are inhabited.
  • UNESCO has taken steps to protect this paradise due to the diversity and beauty of its flora and fauna.


Tuamotu Archipelago:

  • Comprised of no less than 76 atolls. The best-known islands are Rangiroa, Manihi and Fakarava.
  • There is a church made entirely of coral on Fakarava!
  • The blues of its waters encompass the full chromatic range from intense cobalt blue to the most translucent turquoise.
  • Life is not easy on this group of islands since fresh water is scarce and the oceanic currents can be dangerous.
  • The main economic activities are pearl farming, fishing and processing copra (dried coconut flesh) which is used to make coconut oil, soap and butter.


Society Islands:

What does Bora Bora remind you of? Yes, exactly… when we think about Bora Bora we all bring to mind that turquoise lagoon ringed by over-water bungalows. Well, come down from your cloud! There’s a lot more to it and the trip is just beginning.

  • In the first place, you should know that the archipelago is divided into two parts; the Leeward Islands – including Bora Bora, Raiatea, Tahaa and Huahine – and the Windward Islands.
  • Raiatea is the spiritual heart of Polynesia and means “sky of soft light” or “distant paradise” and is the second most important administrative center after Papetee. The Polynesians believed that life on Earth originated on this island. The Taputapuatea marae has been recognized by UNESCO as the ancestral homeland of Polynesian culture.
  • Tiare Apetahi is the beautiful flower that only grows on Mount Temehani in Raiatea, and Tiare Tahiti or Tiare Mohi, the aroma of which captivates everyone, is the flower that encapsulates the essence all French Polynesia. Tahiti (take note: its capital is Papetee), Moorea, Maiao, Mehetia and Tetiaroa are found in the Windward Isles.
  • The well-known over-water bungalows originated in Tahiti.
  • Moorea is known as Tahiti’s sister.
  • Tetiaroa Island belonged to actor Marlon Brando. When he died the property passed to his son and a 2-hectare part to pop star Michael Jackson. It is currently a tourist complex called The Brandon.
  • Mehetia is a desert island formed by a volcano, the crater of which reveals the island’s youth.


The Gambier Archipelago:

  • Nature, as you know, is sometimes very capricious. Proof of this is that the Gambier archipelago is a group of volcanic and coral islets within a very large lagoon that contrasts with the Tuamotu atolls.
  • It is composed of Mangareva, Taravai, Akamaru and Auken. All of them are volcanic islands.
  • It is commonly known as Mangareva since it is the only inhabited island in the archipelago.
  • The Gambier Islands have their own culture, language and history.
  • The most beautiful black pearls in the entire Pacific are found here.


The Austral Islands:

  • This is the least-known and least-visited archipelago, so you know where to start if you want a ground-breaking adventure.
  • It has 5 inhabited islands and a group of islets.
  • Rapa is known as Rapa Iti, “little Rapa”, to differentiate it from Rapa Nui, “great Rapa” (as Easter Island is known in Chile).


Which item among all this information is your favorite? A tough decision, right? Don’t worry about it. Stay on Triptahiti and you will be able to soak up all the information you need. We advise you to take a look at the climate in French Polynesia post to help you decide when you prefer to go… and so that you can clarify some key issues.



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